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Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York is only the latest entry in a rather dire and tired Hollywood formula: the tale of a rouge who mends his ways. Leopards can change their spots with more regularity than a movie genre its clichés, and the Hollywood hacks who trot out this kind of story every year or two are more resistant to change than the Casanovas they write about. What's unusual is that the hack in this case is Allison Burnett, and the film is directed by Joan Chen, whose directorial debut Xiu Xiu the Sent Down Girl was impressive and sensitive in a minor key. Lately in these kinds of films, the rake is played by Richard Gere, and here he is again. Gere is Will Keane, a restaurateur with a Warren Beatty-ish rep for avoiding commitment. "Food," he likes to say, "is the only beautiful thing that truly nourishes." Naturally, Keane knows a happily married couple who represent all that he resists and secretly envies. But he doesn't have time to be too reflective, juggling a couple of dames and also zeroing in on Charlotte (Winona Ryder), the daughter of an old friend of his who came to his restaurant to celebrate her 22nd birthday. She's a Audrey Hepburn-ish wise-child who designs goofy hats for rich, upper-west-side Manhattanites (we know these bizarre hats are endearingly wacky because the movie's score announces them with chimes). Charlotte likes to wear her own concoctions to swank benefits — they look like Calder mobiles, and when she drapes one around her arms over an evening gown she looks like a Christmas tree ready to be dragged out to the city dump. But this Rake's Progress is blended with Love Story. Charlotte is a free-spirited kook who also has a deadly and unusual heart condition. Naturally, at the height of some happy and oblivious fooling around, Charlotte collapses. Then the couple have a fight and split up. Then they get back together. It's the kind of movie where lovers have fights and then the camera shows the disputants in different ends of the city, pining and walking the city streets, or looking off at Chinese lamps. A father-daughter reconciliation is also thrown in when the movie threatens to stray from tear-duct irritation. As the movie is called Autumn in New York, it does shows the occasional leaves, even though it looks like it was shot in late summer. Then autumn turns to winter, and it's clear that the movie couldn't contain itself, having to display more seasons than the one listed in the title. Nonetheless, director Chen leaves her mark on the project — there are many more Asian extras in the background than you normally see in a Hollywood movie. File under Unbelievable: Autumn in New York cost $40 million to produce. Equally implausible: it earned $37 million. MGM's DVD release is consistent with recent product from the studio: rushed, and extras free. Furthermore, the source print for this 2000 release is unnecessarily flawed — on one side of the disc the viewer has the full frame version; on the other, the 1.85:1 version, with scratches and flecking. The audio is an indifferent Dolby Digital 5.1 in both English and French, and with a Spanish 2.0 track, with English and French subtitles and close captioning in English. The static menu comes with 16 chapters. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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